Sports Illustrated Now: Dr. Armin Tehrany explains Fultz’s Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and weighs in on Fultz’s timeline to return
This week, the Philadelphia 76ers fans were disappointed to learn that the guard Markelle Fultz has been diagnosed with Neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition where nerves and/or blood vessels in the area between the lower neck and the armpit are compressed.
After over a year of painful struggles with his shoulder and shooting form, Fultz has finally been correctly diagnosed. Unfortunately, he will be out of the court for the next three to six weeks due to his injury, however, the fact that during this period he will undergo a course of treatment that is expected to bring a full recovery is a silver lining for Fultz’ fans.
According to Dr. Tehrany, an immensely experienced knee and shoulder surgeon, the thoracic outlet syndrome is not a diagnosis that is easy to recognize, adding that he is not surprised that it took Fultz’s doctors so long to form the correct diagnosis.
“Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can be caused by either extra strong and thick muscles around the thoracic outlet so sometimes it’s an extra rib which is congenital, and it’s difficult to diagnose sometimes. I’m not surprised at all that it was difficult to pick up.”
Additionally, based on his own experience of providing treatment for a variety of orthopedic sports injuries, including thoracic outlet syndrome, Dr. Tehrany agrees with the three-to-six weeks recovery period, confirming that this is the length that will enable Fultz to completely recover and regain his strong shape.
Following is the full Sports Illustrated Now segment featuring Dr. Armin Tehrany.
Robin Lundberg: What does that injury actually mean?
Dr. Tehrany: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is a diagnosis involving the thoracic outlet becoming narrow, that’s an area right here in the neck, down over in this region that can sometimes get compromised, especially in the case where someone is an overhead athlete, especially pitchers, and very occasionally basketball players as well. It can cause numbness, sometimes difficulty with cold sensation in that arm, but regardless, it’s something that has to be addressed.
Amy Campbell: Dr. Tehrany, how do you get Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and are you surprised that it took so long for them to diagnose in Fultz?
Dr. Tehrany: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome can be caused by either extra strong thick muscles around the thoracic outlet, or sometimes it’s an extra rib which is congenital, and it’s hard to diagnose sometimes. I’m not surprised at all that it was difficult to pick up.
Robin Lundberg: From your perspective, obviously treating these sorts of things, is this the kind of injury that would explain some of Fultz’s struggles and some of the viral clips of him at the free throw line?
Dr. Tehrany: Sure, absolutely. What I like is the fact that this is being handled conservatively, with trying to make sure that all goes well without having to do surgery, but for sure it can play a role, absolutely.
Robin Lundberg: Does the treatment timeline 3-6 weeks make sense for you?
Dr. Tehrany: Absolutely, it’s a good thing to give it time to be able to come down a little bit. He can still work out of course, but he needs at least that much time before he is ready to go back to the court.